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A conversation about cryptocurrencies and blockchain

A conversation about cryptocurrencies started in one of my work’s streams this weekend. Discussions fluidly evolved from what currency to buy, to whether or not it is late to get into Bitcoin, to the complexities of mining and finally to why do we like cryptocurrencies.

This conversation wasn’t the only one I had about the cryptocurrencies but worked as a catalyst to a self-discovery journey, reminding me of my own values, ambitions and hopes.

I would label myself as a small scale activist.

In primary school, I revindicated for equal rights for boys and girls to play sports in the only school field, when boys got 50% more time than the girls because they had a “better” football team. In secondary school, I fought against unfair treatment of students based on their social status. In college, I was part of the student committee and used it as a platform to ensure we had a more transparent system when it came to understanding how the money of our tuition was spent. And today, I make an effort to support causes that are close to my heart and ensure that I have open and constructive conversations with people that have different viewpoints to me so that we can learn from each other.

So when I was asked the question “why do you like cryptocurrencies?”, it took a while to formulate my answer. To me, the answer to this question lies beyond the cryptocurrency topic. It starts with the underpinning technology behind cryptocurrencies, the blockchain.

In my opinion, blockchain has the potential to be the most life-changing technologies that are currently being explored. Let me explain why…

When the Internet reached the mainstream and became part of everyday life, it changed the fabric of our society. It accelerated the pace of scientific discovery through cross-nation collaboration. It enabled the proletariat to finally own the means of production and start their own virtual businesses from their kitchen tables. It connected people all over the planet and gave victims and protesters a voice, and a platform to share their reality with people all over the world.

The rise of the internet was also the start of a new era of consumerism. Data quickly became the currency of the internet, as marketers realised that our behaviour patterns were invaluable to scale capitalism to a whole new level. The giants of the Internet era, are the institutions that managed to capture our thinking patterns and transform them into transactions.

This data-driven model gave governments and institutions anonymity, and peeled individuals from their privacy in the exchange for curated experiences and the opportunity to win a cheap reward. Many of us fell into this trap…including myself.

The second wave of the internet economy started with a combination of the rise in popularity of the smartphone and the birth of peer-to-peer marketplaces. Those companies defied the existing models and shook entire industries, forcing everyone to re-think how we provide and consume, feeding the experience-driven desires of our generation. It was easy to fall in love with the idea of a shared economy, especially when it spoke so deeply to the digital nomad lifestyle we seek.

But while it might seem from the outside that those companies are fighting battles for “decentralisation of services” and the shared economy, it is only when you put their business model under a magnifying glass, that you realise that there is nothing new or revolutionary about those businesses. The “marketplace economy” is simply using modern technology as a way to create new monopolies, capitalising on the lack of trust between individuals and the outcry for improved services in established industries such as banking, transportation and hospitality.

And this is where the blockchain technology has the potential to change the fabric of capitalism and democracy, by giving the individual the opportunity to regain control over their choices and enabling real peer-to-peer interactions.

Many are afraid of the dangers of the blockchain and associate cryptocurrencies with popular scams that happen in dark-net, and the taking down of the Silk Road. But new and improved blockchains such as Ethereum are emerging. Self-governing blockchains where individuals can create applications and enter contracts that are executed by code that protect those transactions.

This type of blockchain enables true decentralisation of power, as no middle-man such as banks are needed for individuals to perform transactions amongst themselves. It removes points of failure, as all the data created in the blockchain, don’t sit on one single server, but is replicated throughout the entire blockchain, making individuals less susceptible to hacker attacks that are now so common in large organisations across the globe.  It prevents censorship as no one “owns” the blockchain, it is simply managed by developers that do not have the ability to delete or modify any action in the blockchain due to the nature of the technology. It creates transparency, as all transactions are fully traceable and the records are public to anyone,  improving auditing processes.

So… why do I like cryptocurrencies?

Because it’s underpinning technology is the best alternative we have to the rotten system we have in place.

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